I have a theory that when the Republican Party finally collapses as a national party it will happen suddenly and without much warning. It could happen as early as this November, although I am not ready to make that prediction just yet...Actually, the country moved on from their economic and foreign policy ideology after the disaster of the Bush/Cheney administration. On cultural issues, it was just a matter of time.
But the game is nonetheless up. The best movement conservatism can hope for at this point is a flash in the pan confluence of bad news timed at just the right moment to give them the unlikeliest of national victories. This country has totally moved on from their ideology.
But it didn't have to be this way. From the beginning, President Obama reached out to Republicans to work with him on developing bipartisan responses to the challenges we faced as a country. David Frum lamented the fact that Republicans could have taken another path on health care reform.
At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994...As I've written so often, in response to this kind of obstruction, President Obama implemented conciliatory rhetoric as a ruthless strategy. In other words, his outstretched hand demonstrated the intransigence on the Republican side of the isle and left them with no choice but to embrace increasingly marginalized positions in order to justify their obstruction.
This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.
Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big...Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views?
Just as Frum speculated on a different course for Republicans, imagine with me for a moment what would have transpired if President Obama had taken the advice of many on the left and decided to fight fire with fire. What if, for example, he had responded to their obstruction by insisting on single payer for health care reform or refused to include tax cuts in the stimulus bill? Don't even THINK about suggesting Republicans would have budged on either of those if he had insisted. Neither side would have prevailed and the resulting chaos would have been a Republican dream come true.
In the end, the Republicans chose their own path of obstruction and increasing marginalization. President Obama's response ensured that would mean their demise...not his. It might take years for us to see the full result of those decisions. But when it all unfolds, it will be one of the most important ingredients of this President's legacy.